It was mid November 2011. I was shivering on the upper deck of an aging cruise ship docked at the harbor in downtown Rotterdam. Inside, a big-band was jamming at a reception for attendees of the GovCert cybersecurity conference, where I had delivered a presentation earlier that day on a long-running turf war between two of the largest sponsors of spam.
The evening was bracingly frigid and blustery, and I was waiting there to be introduced to investigators from the Russian Federal Security Service; several FSB agents who attended the conference told our Dutch hosts that they wanted to meet me in a private setting. Stepping out the night air, a woman from the conference approached, formally presented the three men behind her, and then hurried back inside to the warmth of the reception
Employee and financial records leaked from some of the world’s largest sponsors of spam provide new clues about the identity of a previously unknown Russian man believed to have been closely tied to the development and maintenance of “Bredolab,” a massive collection of hacked machines that was disassembled in an international law enforcement sweep in late 2010.
In October 2010, Armenian authorities arrested 27-year-old Georg Avanesov on suspicion of running Bredolab, a botnet that infected an estimated 3 million PCs per month through virus-laden e-mails and booby-trapped Web sites. The arrest resulted from a joint investigation between Armenian police and cyber sleuths in the Netherlands, whose ISPs were home to at least 143 servers used to direct the botnet’s activities.
A Wikileaks-style war of attrition between two competing rogue Internet pharmacy gangs has exposed some of the biggest spammers on the planet. The latest casualties? Several individuals likely responsible for running Grum, currently the world’s most active spam botnet.
A prominent affiliate program that pays people to promote knockoff luxury goods closing down at the end of January. The program — GlavTorg.com — is run by the same individuals who ran the infamous Glavmed and SpamIt rogue pharmacy operations.
Microsoft on Monday named a Russian man as allegedly the guy responsible for running the Kelihos botnet, a spam engine that infected an estimated 40,000 PCs. But closely held data seized from the world’s largest spam affiliate program suggests that the driving force behind Kelihos is a different individual who is still coordinating spam campaigns for hire.
Kelihos shares a great deal of code with the infamous Waledac botnet, a far more pervasive threat that infected hundreds of thousands of computers and pumped out tens of billions of junk emails promoting shady online pharmacies. Despite the broad base of shared code between the two malware families, Microsoft classifies them as fundamentally different threats. The company used clever legal techniques to seize control over and shutter both botnets, sucker punching Waledac in early 2010 and taking out Kelihos last fall.
On Monday, Microsoft filed papers with a Virginia court stating that Kelihos was run by Andrey N. Sabelnikov, a St. Petersburg man who once worked at Russian antivirus and security firm Agnitum. But according to the researcher who shared that intelligence with Microsoft — and confidentially with Krebs On Security weeks prior to Microsoft’s announcement — Sabelnikov is likely only a developer of Kelihos. Rather, the researcher argues, the true coordinator of both Kelihos and Waledac is another Russian man who is well known to anti-spam activists.
The last post in this series introduced the world to “Google,” an alias chosen by the hacker in charge of Cutwail — currently the world’s largest spam botnet. Google rented his crime machine to members of SpamIt, an organization that paid spammers to promote rogue Internet pharmacy sites. This made Google a top dog, but also a primary target of other botmasters selling software to SpamIt, particularly the hacker known as “SPM,” the guy behind the infamous Srizbi botnet.
Previous stories in my Pharma Wars series have identified top kingpins behind the world’s largest spam botnets. Today’s post includes never-before-published information on “Google,” the secretive hacker in charge of the infamous Cutwail botnet.
Recently leaked online chat records may provide the closest look yet at a Russian man awaiting trial in Wisconsin on charges of running a cybercrime machine once responsible for sending between 30 to 40 percent of the world’s junk email.
I spoke this week at Govcert 2011, a security conference in Rotterdam. The talk drew heavily on material from my Pharma Wars series, about the alleged proprietors of two competing rogue Internet pharmacies who sought to destroy the others’ reputation… Read More »
Rove Digital, the company run by six men who were arrested in Estonia this week for allegedly infecting four million PCs worldwide with malware, was an early investor in ChronoPay, a major Russian payment processing firm whose principal founder Pavel… Read More »